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Episode 110: Talking Safety, Sustainability & Giving Back with Volvo (Transcript)

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[00:00:00] Liz Bothwell: Hi everyone, welcome to Waste360's NothingWasted! Podcast. On every episode, we invite the most interesting people in waste recycling and organics to sit down with us and chat candidly about their thoughts, their work, this unique industry and so much more. Thanks for listening and enjoy this episode.

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[00:00:26] Liz: Hi everyone. This is Liz Bothwell from Waste360 with Martin Mattson from Volvo Construction Equipment and one of our 40 Under 40 winners from 2017. Welcome, Martin, and thanks for being on the show today.

[00:00:40] Martin Mattson: Thank you, Liz. Good morning. I look forward to it and thank you for the invitation.

[00:00:45] Liz: Martin, we normally start in the beginning. Could you please tell us about your background and how you ended up at Volvo and within this fabulous industry?

[00:00:54] Martin: Born and raised in Sweden. I came to the US summer of 2000. That was 21 years ago, obviously. Started with Volvo in an internship while I was at the university in Sweden. Started with a summer job/internship with Volvo Construction Equipment here in the US, then I moved back and forth between the US and Sweden for a couple of years. After graduating in Sweden, I actually moved back and got a full-time job with Volvo here in the US. My entire career with Volvo is actually been here in the US.

I've never really worked for Volvo in Sweden. Then I've had various roles on the sales side with Volvo Construction Equipment as a product manager, district manager, I've been in different application sales/commercial roles with Volvo. Then since 2014, I've been the director of key accounts for Volvo Construction Equipment and 100% focused on the waste and recycling industry. I handle the larger waste and recycling companies in the US and Canada, both national players and regional companies.

You could say, I also act as voice of the customer when it comes to the product offering we have in Volvo Construction Equipment tailored for the waste and recycling industry. A lot of the feedback and input I get from the various customers that I work with on a daily basis, gets fed into our product development process. We're one of the few in the industry that truly has a purpose-built waste handling offering when it comes to off-road equipment. I spearhead that and organize that for Volvo Construction Equipment.

That's a quick background. In addition to that, I've also had the opportunity, over the years, to be involved with NWRA and EREF, which has been a great journey and continues to be a lot of fun. It feels good to give back to the industry, being involved in those organizations. That's a quick background on what I've done over the last 20 plus years.

[00:03:35] Liz: It sounds great. I love what you said about the voice of the customer. I think that's part of what makes what you're doing special. Can you talk about that a little? You've been around equipment for so long now, how do you ensure that your offerings are really designed to keep up with the needs of your customers and the industry itself?

[00:03:58] Martin: Yes, I would say we work very close with the, called it, the fleet maintenance and operations teams at the various waste and recycling companies. We're very good at listening to the needs of the market. For us, waste and recycling is a very tough demanding application to start with for heavy equipment. We take that very seriously and we take our equipment and put on some heavy-duty guarding packages, fire suppression, solid tires, and various special attachments.

We are trying to make it as easy as possible for our waste and recycling customers in that when you come to Volvo, there's very few variables. Most of the offering comes designed by us, factory-installed, and dealer supported. There's only maybe tires and certain attachments that will be specific to the application where we as Volvo, may not be as involved. We try to look at it-- the full circle. That's been well received by the industry. I would say we also talk the lingo.

When it comes to customer, we always ask the questions that they asked their own people, "How many times do you move per day? And what do you do? What's the material?" Then we tailor our offering around that.

[00:05:39] Liz: That's great. You can just ensure you're delivering a product that they're happy with. I love that.

[00:05:45] Martin: Yes, it's been working really well. Yes.

[00:05:48] Liz: Good. You've seen so many changes. Last time we chatted with you, it was a few years ago, but Volvo was launching an autonomous truck, a land pat, a landfill compactor, a hybrid wheel loader, what's been happening since? How are those going? And what's on the horizon? I know that's a big question, Martin [laughs]. 

[00:06:10] Martin: No, it's a big question, but I think to start with, we're very transparent within the Volvo Group when it comes to press releases, news releases, and where we see things are heading. Yes, since we last spoke, we're very proud that we launched a landfill compactor and that's a new product and offering for us. We're still learning a lot along the way, but that is a perfect example, that came out of customer demand. Some of the key customers that we deal with, they wanted an alternative and said, "Volvo, you're very engaged in the industry. We think you have the knowledge and experience. You should look at this product".

We took that to heart and designed it, and launched it. That is now a fully commercial product that we offer. That' product's been working well. New product always come with some issues, and you learn along the way. But overall, I've got to say, we are very proud with the Volvo LC450 that we launched at WasteExpo 2019. We're two, three years into it now. If we look even further ahead, yes, we got some electric machines that are being launched this year and next.

We are also working on various research projects around the world when it comes to autonomous electric solutions. A lot of those discussions I've actually been with some of the waste and recycling companies, because we see that that would be a very good solution for them going forward. I want to say that, especially if we look at autonomous product, those would be ideal for logistics centers, ports and so forth, and landfills. Those are closed-off environments with commercial traffic only, doing a repetitive operation. That's where we see that autonomous vehicles could probably be a good solution in the future.

[00:08:25] Liz: Great. How far out do you think we are?

[00:08:29] Martin: The short answer is, I think we're pretty far out. A lot of that has to do with customer acceptance and maybe acceptance from society that technology and the solutions may be there. But are we ready as a community, as a society, as a larger company to really take that on and plug that into all the other infrastructure that you already have? I think we're going to start to see it here and there in very specific applications, and then build from there.

Like I said, technology may be there already in certain areas. It has to be refined a little bit, but it will be here before we know it. Let's put it that way.

[00:09:25] Liz: [laughs] Good. That makes sense, what you're saying. I know there's a lot to work through, so we'll be watching for that. You're also leading the Auction Committee for EREF. That's so great that you're doing that. I know Bryan and his team are very grateful for that. Could you tell me more about that role and how it's going?

[00:09:46] Martin: Yes. I've been on the EREF Auction Committee for quite a few years. I was asked to, now the chairman of the EREF Auction Committee as going on the third year now. For me personally, that is a great way to give back to the industry and to be involved. If I just speak for Volvo for a second, the mission and the values of EREF perfectly aligned with the mission and the core values of the Volvo Group. Our three core values; quality, safety, and care for the environment.

When I look at what we and our other Volvo Company, Mack Trucks, we've done over the years, it's like a no-brainer for us to be involved with EREF. Also, it's a great way to connect the dots and to also get starting companies. Some of them are customers of ours that are not as engaged in the industry as a whole, when it comes to associate associations like that; they see the value as well, and we have now grown that over the last few years, we're getting more and more companies to donate their time, and events and so forth.

This year like last year-- it should be a good auction here coming up around WasteExpo times, and then we also have another event in the fall, in November with the Fall Classic. All I would say is it's a great opportunity, I think it starts with supporting the science side of the industry, and like I said, the work of EREF perfectly aligned with what we do at the Volvo Group.

[00:11:44] Liz: It certainly sounds that way. I love EREF for the same reasons that you just noted. Their research-based data and the science behind everything, it's all really rooted in science. It was a big gap that the industry had for the longest time that EREF is filling now, so on behalf of the industry, thank you for supporting it so much. You and Volvo as a whole.

[00:12:10] Martin: Yes. No, thank you. Maybe not in closing on EREF, but we are one of the companies that we use a lot of that data and that information that EREF has produced over the years. When we look at product development, and new offerings, and maybe some of these new emerging technologies that we're working, we lean on EREF and use the information that they produce. That's the real value right there.

[00:12:41] Liz: Definitely. You mentioned the auction, obviously being at WasteExpo, it's coming up quickly in June and it's always a big highlight there. What are you most looking forward to?

[00:12:53] Martin: Yes. This year we're obviously we're doing a virtual auction again. We did that last year. It works out well. I think we learned a lot from it. The option will open up here mid-June and close around end of June at the end of WasteExpo. Now we're getting into executing on, firming up all the various donations, and making sure that people and companies are aware of how the option is going to work as well, this way, this year.

I would say that the work that's been done by Bryan and his team, Caitlin, and so forth at EREF has been phenomenal. What I would say to the industry is, beyond the lookouts, because between now and end of June, there will be a lot of information, and especially on the logistics and how it works and how you participate. There's various ways to do that. We're trying to make it as easy as possible since we are not going to be together live in front of all the various donation at the WasteExpo. But like I said, it worked last year and we learned a lot from it. We look forward to it, it will be a good auction again this year.

[00:14:16] Liz: Great. I think so too, and it really feels like things are opening up and people want to reconnect. That's the feedback we're getting. Are you hearing the same, Martin?

[00:14:27] Martin: Yes, we were hearing the same. We talked to some customers already this morning. They look forward to meet in Las Vegas, here at WasteExpo coming up end of June, and we Volvo, obviously, we're going to be there. We going to be an exhibitor and we look forward to meet people again. I would say that, yes, I sensed the same within the industry. We're not through this yet. We're going to do this in a very safe way, and obviously, various companies and organizations have different travel restrictions, whether you can meet in person at somebody's office or not.

We all respect that, but you can sense, like you said, that people want to get out again and meet face to face. I always say that I'm in the heavy equipment business but at the end of the day, this is a relationship business, and it's about the people. We started to look forward to connect with people in Las Vegas, and at other future events going forward, of course.

[00:15:36] Liz: Definitely. You're really first in line around technology, and I know that you always have your ear to the ground, and like I said, you always listened to your customers. Are there any technologies or innovation that you're really paying attention to that will propel the industry forward? Even if it's beyond heavy equipment, what are you noticing, Martin?

[00:15:59] Martin: Yes. One big thing for us is safety, and that's obviously a big, big focus of the industry. I feel that that is one where we shine and try to really listen. We have done a lot over the years, and continue to add when it comes to safety aspects. If I look at the space that we are in, when it comes to heavy equipment, no area is more important than the other.

We have really taken a step when it comes to stuff like ground-level servicing, so that people don't fall off our equipment. Orange handrails.

We pay a lot of attention to lockout, tagout, for example. We have a rotating beacon on our equipment that is always on when there's power to the machine. Rearview camera, [unintelligible 00:16:55] side view cameras or forward-looking cameras, LED lights. These are all areas that have grown over time, there's not a meeting that I'm not in where we get those questions though, "What else are you doing in terms of the safety aspect?" I would say that, that's something you're never done with that, and that's something you have to think about on a daily basis, but I am proud of that we are really contributing there, and take it very seriously at Volvo. I know that others are following suit as well.

[00:17:33] Liz: Definitely, and the industry is really focused on it, like you said. Whenever I think of Volvo, I do think safety first. I love that you said that's part of your core value, and it really is what you guys are living. It's good to see it's focused within this industry as well, because I think we all would love to get out of that top 10 list, right? That's not a good top 10 list to be on.

[00:17:57] Martin: Correct. Yes, you certainly want to be on certain top 10 lists, but that is not the one that's that you want to be on, and we shouldn't be there. I think we all try to contribute to that. Like I said, that work is never done and it should be part of your culture, and everyday thinking.  Same within our product development process, when we look at new offering, whether it's a hard product or a soft offering, the safety aspect is always part of that process.

I think we can be proud of that when we look back at what our equipment and often looked like five, 10, 15 years ago, a lot of those areas, while they may sound small, they are not. Like I said, there's always things to work on but we do put that first a lot.

[00:18:59] Liz: It's great to hear. You're definitely living that for sure.

[00:19:04] Martin: Yes, thank you. Yes, we do.

[00:19:08] Liz: That's great. The pandemic, how has that affected your work, Martin?

[00:19:13] Martin: I would say first and foremost, [unintelligible 00:19:15] those roles like many of us in the industry, I traveled every week, and obviously that did not happen.  Last year I was home a lot, and it actually turned out to be okay. I think for us at Volvo is that we have very strong relationship, and partnerships with the larger waste and recycling companies, as well as the regional companies that we do business with.

They were under the same travel restrictions, and working from home that I was. So we were actually able to, in one, we're getting ahold of each other easier and work through it. The other thing that we did, that I know a lot of other things, we wanted to make sure that we continue to service our customers. A lot of our focus, if I look back a year was parts availability and service capabilities. We wanted to make sure that our customers can get to us and that we can get to them.

Obviously, the waste and recycling industries is an essential business, almost immediately, when it comes to parts on the shelf and parts availability, we stuck that up and we had very few hiccups, if any, when it comes to the flow of parts and so forth. When everything locked down that was a bit of a dam still called, but then after a while, I wouldn't say that it was back to business as usual, but we have to continue to service our customers, just like our customer has been serving their customers, and that we did a little different, but the year ended up to be a good year. I think we learned a lot from it.

The one negative would maybe be-- it was hard to maybe develop some new relationships in some companies and organizations that we had started to work with, and they are not that familiar with us. That's challenging because there are certain things that you need to cover face to face. If I look at where we are now, we're starting to do that more. I'm one that has been on a few trips already. We do it in a very safe way, or we meet outside, or we arrange for a large meeting room at a hotel with very few people, and we obviously adhere to the guidelines that are out there, but it's good to be back out again, and to meet people and companies again.

[00:21:51] Liz: I feel the same way, and we'll get there. Like you said, we're not out-

[00:21:56] Martin: We'll get there.

[00:21:57] Liz: [laughs] Yes, we're making our way, I feel like this industry is so resilient. You've mentioned you heard the Bill Caesar podcast, and I know we talked about it as well, but what's nice about it-- a silver lining. A lot of heartaches came out of the pandemic, but at least our industry was deemed essential, and it was nice to elevate the position of the industry again, with the general public I should say anyway.

[00:22:31] Martin: Yes. It's the people that makes this industry unique. I have the opportunity to get to know a lot of those people over the years, and we get these curve balls thrown our way every now and then. We adapt, and we find different ways of meeting and doing business and servicing our customers. I think we did that well. We were starting it up perfect last year, but I think we can say that most of the obstacles we overcame, and we did a fairly good job last year. Now we've learned from that this year.

[00:23:13] Liz: I think a lot of people have, for sure. I know we talked about Volvo values aligning with EREF, and I know one thing that Bryan and I spoke about was this sustainability future. The industry has always been the first environmentalist, but EREF, really their mission is focused more on sustainability as well. I know for us at Waste360, it's a big focus of ours. Are you finding that at Volvo, or has that just been part of your story and now you just have to communicate it more? How are you feeling about sustainability and ESG, and the work that you're all doing?

[00:23:56] Martin: Yes, I think we've always been doing it in a way, and it's always lived that and we've always reported even in our-- You look, and when we do an annual meeting or a quarterly report, we always have that as a component, our sustainability efforts, and projects. I would say what's a big change we see is that now we see customers requesting that more, where maybe five, 10, 15 years ago, it was one of those, "That's great that you're working, but how does that help me?"

Now there's a turn there, especially when we do quarterly meetings or annual meetings with various customers and organization, that is at the top of the agenda. They want to hear about what are your sustainability projects and efforts, and what can we learn from that to incorporate into our own organization?

We have a big meeting coming up here next week. That's one of the main topics for that meeting, whereas maybe in the past, that would have been Martin talking about the latest and greatest excavator that Volvo was offering. We're still talking about that, and we love to talk about a product portfolio, the sustainability efforts, emerging technologies, safety, those are topics that are at the top of the agenda from any of the discussions that we have.

[00:25:27] Liz: I bet. It's great you're hearing that from customers as well. I think in our industry and even in the consumer side of the world, they're demanding more and expecting more, so it's great in general.

[00:25:40] Martin: Yes. That keep us on our toes and makes sure that we are working on the right thing. I would say there's no reason for us to develop things or come out with new products or services that the customers don't need or see value in. That speaks to that we were onto something and that we're working on the right initiatives, I guess, is the best way of putting it.

[00:26:02] Liz: As a 40 Under 40 winner yourself, what advice would you give professionals entering this industry?

[00:26:09] Martin: I would say, always try to find a few mentors within the industry. I know there are many of them. What I liked about the waste and recycling industry is everybody is very down-to-earth, approachable. Take advantage of that. Yes, we may be competitors on a day-to-day basis and so forth, but it's great to see that we share success stories and best practices. I've had the opportunity to get to know personally some of the senior leaders from public and regional companies.

They are very approachable. They always have time for you. I think that, again, speaks to the people within the industry. That's where I've learned the industry and the lingo, I would say. But often, I can pick up the phone and call some of those people and run an issue or a problem by them and they always have time for you. I would say the biggest advice is to take advantage of that, the network, and get to know the industry inside and out. Because this is a fun industry. It gets in your blood. Again, it's the people that make this unique.

[00:27:39] Liz: It's so true. The relationships you build, it's so close-knit.

[00:27:45] Martin: It's a small industry, after all. I looked at what we do at Volvo for other segments or industries who are customer, but yes, everybody knows one another. They've been there. They've worked there and they have each other's unique story to tell, so take advantage of that and pay attention to where the things are going. I would say the other thing is, this is also an industry that is very eager and interesting to hear about new technology. They don't mind to be the first to try something. Even when something may not be 100% ready, that's something.

That they're willing to develop products or services with you along the way that later will become a commercially available product. The technology, and then, of course, the safety aspect, those are two things that I take as a takeaway, I would guess, in my daily conversations with various people.

[00:28:52] Liz: That's great insight. Can you just talk a little bit about why people should support the EREF Auction?

[00:28:58] Martin: Yes, EREF is the science arm of the industry and I think we get a lot of good data and information out of that. Like I said, from Volvo, we support EREF. I know many others do it because it's the right thing to do. It helps the industry as a whole, and we can each utilize and use that information at various levels within our own organizations. Let's not forget the networking and learning from one another. It's extremely valuable.

I used to think that everything you do, regardless of how you participate and support EREF, it just drives the industry forward. It's critical. There's no other organization like it. It's a great group of people. I enjoy getting on these calls. We meet at these events and talk about how we can make the industry better and safer. There are no reason for not getting involved.

[00:30:08] Liz: Absolutely. There's something for everyone and it's for the greater good. That's awesome. Martin, is there anything else you want to share before I let you go today?

[00:30:18] Martin: No, I would say that I appreciate to be on. We're always here to help one another. If anybody listening have any questions, feel free to reach out. Yes, we're sitting and we're recording this in mid-May. We've got the WasteExpo coming up. We hope to see you out in Las Vegas. We going to put on a good show and a good event. I want to say thank you, Liz, for setting this up. I appreciate to be on and we'll see you in Las Vegas, if not earlier.

[00:30:51] Liz: Sounds great. I'm looking forward to seeing you again.

[00:30:54] Martin: Yes.

[00:30:55] Liz: Okay. Great. It was so nice chatting with you. Thank you for being generous with your time.

[00:31:00] Martin: Yes, absolutely. Happy to help.

[00:31:03] Liz: Okay, great. If I don't talk to you before, then I'll see you at WasteExpo.

[00:31:07] Martin: We'll do. Take care.

[00:31:09] Liz: Okay, you too. Bye, Martin. Thank you for listening. It would mean the world if you would take a moment to rate or review this podcast. If you share it with us on one of our social networks, we are giving out some fun Nothing Wasted Podcast swag. Just tag us and see what you get. Thanks so much.

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